Things You Remember
While the book I began to write in October 2012 is now in the editing stages and should be between covers in a couple of months I have started to think of what I might compile next. I say, compile because I still have a lot of material saved from my more than 45 years working as a sports announcer that might be of interest to others.
Some of that material may be only of interest to me. For instance I have kept a list of what I call “Great Games”. Not all of them really were games or even that great in the big picture. But the memories stood out for me at least.
One of the events from my baseball life wasn’t on that list and I would have totally forgotten about it had I not still had a newspaper clipping crammed, un-mounted, in an old scrap book.
It was the night there was a prison escape from Highland Park Stadium!
I don’t have the dateline from the paper, but it must have been in 1965. There were some major league box scores on the back of the page. The Astros had a player named Mahoney. His only year with the team was 1965.
I played baseball on a team called the Kokomo Highlanders. It was a team made up of post American Legion players, college players and older players who just loved to still play baseball.
The box scored showed nothing special. Kokomo won the game in seven innings 4-3 as play was ended in the top of the 8th due to rain. I was 0-2 while playing first base.
The game story by Kokomo Tribune Sports Editor, Bob Ford, told the real tale. You see, the game had pitted the Highlanders against an inmate team from the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Earlier we had visited the prison and played a game behind the walls. By the way, as I recall, the walls WERE the walls. The field was laid out so that the outfield walls in left and right field were the actual high walls of the prison. No one chased down any home runs that left the park—even if some members of the home team and spectators would have liked to.
A few weeks after that game the Prison team rolled into Kokomo in their prison bus with barred windows. The trip was about 120 miles. They were still wearing their prison garb and watched over by armed guards. Ushered to the small clubhouse at the ballpark they changed into their uniforms.
The game was fairly routine. The prisoners took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Kokomo came back to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. The tie-breaker scoring on a passed ball. Defensive problems would play a part in the story that night.
The prison team, known officially as the Indiana State Prison Bears, tied the game on a double steal in the top of the 5th. The game remained 3-3 until the last of the seventh.
With the field wet the Highlander lead-off hitter Mike Hankins reached on a bunt mishandled by the pitcher. Hankins made it all the way to third base. The next hitter fanned. The Bears might still have a chance to get out of it. Then Gary Patmore hit a grass-cutter toward second baseman Bob Fisher. With water spraying off the ball as it rolled hard through the grass, Fisher couldn’t handle it and Hankins scored with the tie-breaker. Although the 8th inning was started in the rain and the prison team actually tied the score it soon became too much rain and the game was ended. The score reverted to the last full inning. Kokomo 4, Prison 3. But the story wasn’t over.
After heading to the clubhouse, showering and changing back into prison duds for the ride back, the count was one player short. The prison guards were in a frenzy. They had let a player escape!
Second baseman Bob Fisher, who had committed the error allowing what was the winning run to score had sneaked out. He was serving 2-14 years for forgery and apparently felt that even if caught and his sentence extended, it was still better than what his fellow convicts might have for him on the long ride back following his game losing error.
I don’t know what happened to Bob Fisher, but it’s a pretty good bet that game in Kokomo in 1965 ended his baseball career.